Charles Stanley - Suffering a Faith Failure
I learned a long time ago when I could be confronted with some situation, some circumstance, and asking God about it, that almost every time His answer was the same, Trust me. Well, I didn't think that was a very long answer to my big problem or my situation, whatever it may have been. But I learned pretty soon after that that when He said "Trust me" that was the first step. Wasn't the final step, but it was the first step. Because it was the foundation of everything else He would say thereafter.
And sometimes those situations were settled briefly, quickly, sometime over a period of time. But trusting Him was the basic foundational truth that always needs to be there if you and I coming to Him about anything because He's the trustworthy Heavenly Father. Think about this: He is honored, and as if God needed any honor. He is honored when you and I trust Him in any given situation. Because what we're doing is we're saying, I recognize who you are; I recognize my need; I know that you're the one who has the solution; it's beyond me; and I have absolute confidence, Father, that you love me enough to help me in this situation no matter what. God is honored by our faith. And when we don't trust Him, it's dishonoring. Because He says He will. And if He says He will, He will because He's always truthful, He's always faithful to His word, no matter that might be.
Well, sometimes we all have those situations and circumstances in which we have faith failures. That is, we may trust Him for a moment, then we give up. Or He may challenge us to do something and we just don't trust Him at all. We just say, well, I can't do that. That won't work for me. I know that you've made these promises, but. And so usually when we put a "but" in our relationship to God, we're just about ready to do something we shouldn't do or to walk away from some opportunity. Or fail to become what God wants us to be. One of the most graphic pictures of a faith failure is found in the Old Testament.
Now, we think about those in the New Testament like Peter walking on water and so forth, but more than likely you're not going to be trying to do that anyway. So let's go back to the Old Testament and, in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the book of Numbers. And I want you to turn there for just a moment and here is a picture of a faith failure that all of us need to examine because it can happen to us. And I want us to look at this, and I'm going to read a few verses of scripture, and then we'll take some of the others as we, as we come along here.
So, what's happening is this. The nation of Israel has come out of Egyptian bondage. God has set them free. They've crossed the Red Sea. They've passed through the wilderness. They went down to Sinai to receive God's law in the Ten Commandments. And now they're up on the very border of the Promised Land which God had promised to them. He promised it to them through Abraham, their father. And now they've come this far after four hundred years in bondage to Egypt. And now they're on the brink of the blessing of their life that they dreamed of.
And then you'll notice beginning, for example, in verse seventeen when Moses sent the spies out to the land of Canaan, he said to them, I want you to look at the nature of the land. I want you to look at, who's there, the size of the people there, the fruits of the land, are any of the trees there and so forth. He gives them all these instructions and, when they came back, the scripture says in verse twenty-three, "Then they came to the valley of Eschol and from there they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs. Imagine a cluster of grapes so large that two men had to carry it on a pole.
And so, verse twenty-five, "When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told Him, and said 'We went,'" watch this, "We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it".
Then they made this statement, "Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan. Then Caleb," one of those twelve, "quieted the people before Moses and said, 'We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.'" That was an expression of faith. "But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.'
So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people with whom we saw,' that we saw, "'in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim,'" the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim, "and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight". So, we get this report. "Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, 'Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?'"
Can you imagine that? So they said to one another, 'Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.' Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; And they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, 'The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.'" And the result is, the scripture says they said, Stone them. Stone them to death right here.
Now, these people had been prepared all through the wilderness area because they left through the wilderness area and came to the very brink of this blessing. And they had been told what God had promised. And now here they are on the brink of the blessing and they're having a faith failure. And what I want you to see is, I want you to see why they did. Because the same thing that happened to them as a nation happens to people who are individuals. Because God blesses us, He challenges us, He challenges you, for example, in some area of your life that you're to move ahead, whether it's in a job or whether it's in a relationship, whatever it might be. And when we back off, listen carefully, we back off and we say, Well, I know that's what God says.
I've heard that so many times in fifty-four years as a pastor. I've heard that so many times, listen, I know that's what the Bible says, but. I know that's what is says, but, but, but, but, but. In other words, I'm an exception to the laws of God, the rules of God; therefore it won't work for me. The truth is, listen carefully, it's easy to say, Oh yes, I sinned against God. Don't you find it a little more difficult to say, I rebelled against God. There's something about that word "rebel" that's more powerful than just sin. Because we can take sin and say, Well, everybody has a little sin here and a little sin there.
Rebellion, rebellion is like witchcraft. God hates rebellion because, Listen, it is a strike against the person of God, the power of God, the work of God, the will of God, and the ways of God. He doesn't do anything that is not proper and right and perfect. So here they are now, and they are ready to stone Joshua and Caleb and, they're willing to go back to Egypt and talk about dying in the wilderness, we'll die in it's better to die in the wilderness than to walk into the Promised Land? Now, that's how foolish people can be and they're still that foolish.
I want us to look at something here. And I want us to let's define first of all, let's define what we mean by a faith failure. A faith failure is the failure to express or to exercise our faith in a given situation, exercise our faith to God when confronted with a challenge, a trial, or a temptation. That is, we fail to trust Him. We fail to believe Him. We do not do what God would have us to do. So when I think about that, and I think about, the causes, let's think about the causes for just a moment, and then ask yourself the question, would this be true in your own life. And the first one is this: The reason they didn't go into the Promised Land is fear of failure. They were afraid. They looked at all those, people who were there. And they looked at the walled cities, fortresses, all the different kinds of tribes that were there, and said, We can't do it. They forgot all about God. They said, We can't do it. They were afraid. They just sit paralyzed looking into the Promised Land, but they can't move. Afraid.
How many times do you suppose in your life that you have missed one of God's blessings because you were afraid of a number of things? Afraid to fail, afraid of what somebody would say, afraid you couldn't live up to your own expectations. Afraid. Fear is a paralyzer. Fear is a destroyer. Fear is a cheater. Fear deprives us from the very best that God has to give us. And, listen, Canaan was the best land possible for the people of Israel. These are God's chosen people. This is the people through whom the Messiah is coming. He provided the best for them. And He provided everything they would need in order to conquer that land.
And, remember this, when Moses sent the spies in, he didn't send them in to make a decision about whether to go or not. He was making a decision about how they would take the land, not if they would. And true, genuine faith, starts is what I said, the Lord says to me. Trust me. Don't insist that I give you all the answers now. Just trust me. Don't insist in all the details. I'll give you details when the time comes. Just trust me. Just take a step at a time. If He tells you to take two steps, take two. If He says take two steps left, take two steps left. If He says take two steps backwards, take two steps backwards. Just obey me. You won't always understand, just obey me. And because of their fear they lost it. A second reason is simply this, they failed to recall the power of God in past experiences in their life. And we probably all do that at some point or the other.
Well, look back in your life how many times God has blessed you, provided for you when you didn't know where it was coming from, when He's done one wonderful work in your life after the other, most of which you've probably have taken credit for. The truth is that God is the one who did it. And so, you have this whole background of the blessings of God. And here they are ready to walk into the Promised Land and they have this big memory loss, memory loss of being a slave in Egyptian bondage their families for four hundred years. They had a memory loss of God, one night without them raising a sword, free them from Egyptian bondage. Reign terror on all of Egypt. Kill the firstborn. Set them free. Took the treasure of Egypt with them and walked into the wilderness following Moses.
Think about this. Some of you lived a rather rotten life before He saved you. And you look back and you thank God that He saved you out of a life of sin. Well, He started blessing you and He keeps on blessing you. Have you forgotten what He saved you from? And look with the blessing in sight, they forgot. That in itself is a terrible sin. To forget the blessings of God who has blessed us abundantly over and over and over again. Then, of course, naturally, they failed to see things from God's perspective. Because when they saw these Nephilim and these Anaks and that is they were very, very large, physically-bodied men. The more they looked at the giants, the larger they got. The larger the city walls were. Until finally they were convinced, we can't do it.
They weren't looking through the eyes of deity. They weren't looking through the eyes of God. They weren't looking through the eyes of Moses who said, God has given you this land. It's, in other words, it's a done deal in the eyes of God. And this is why I love this verse in Mark eleven, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four there when Jesus said, What things that you desire when you pray, watch this, believe that you have them. Past tense. Done deal. Completed. Believe that you do and they will be granted to you. Which is His way of saying, I want you to trust me that if you ask me for something that's my will, that's it's as good as done. And then, you, listen, you walk in the faith that God will give you that in His due time. But in your mind it's a done deal. That's what perfect faith is all about, which we've talked about. And yet, they were looking at this from their perspective, not God's perspective.
Now, what are the consequences of that? There're always consequences so let's look at them. Number one, they suffer disappointment. Listen, rebellion against God is devastating. It isn't just the piddling sin; it's a devastating act. And the more God wants to bless you, the worse the penalty when you choose to rebel against Him. And so, what happens? They suffer disappointment. They were grieved in their spirit. And they weren't grieved in their spirit to cry out to repent of their sins and say, God change your attitude, we're sorry. Take us back to Egypt. Let us die in the wilderness. It's better there. It's better there than to look over into the Promised Land with the promise of Almighty God that it's ours. No-no-no-no-no, we're going back to the wilderness.
When you backslide on God, that's what you're doing. You're going back to the wilderness. And there's no way to be happy living in rebellion toward God. This is a perfect example. And, they developed a distorted view of their circumstance. Because if you'll think about it, what we just said. Back to Egypt, back to the wilderness, back to slavery, all of that when their circumstances were they stood on the brink of the Promised Land, on the brink of the greatest blessing of the blessing that they'd been hoping for, dreaming of, were told about, even when they were in Egyptian bondage. There they are and now they want to lay it all down because of what ten men said about what God said I have given you.
Then think about this. What they did caused everybody else to suffer. When you go back to these, to this passage in the fourteenth chapter, he says, "Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night". They spent a miserable night weeping and wailing and crying, and what happened? Not only were they suffering that night; that was just the beginning of it. Because here's what God said. God said in this passage, He said, "Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey, I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses will fall into this wilderness".
And He said, every single man who is over the age of twenty, every man over the age of twenty will die in the wilderness. Forty long years you are to wander through the wilderness. And forty years they did. Forty years they fought, they died, they grumbled, they were bitten by serpents, you name it. Everything that God said would happen began to happen. Why? Because they choose like we choose. They chose to rebel against the will of God for their life which was absolutely awesome.
And if you'll think about it, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, do you realize that you are rebelling against God? You say, Well, I don't believe in God. That doesn't change it. He's still God. If you refuse His son, Jesus, you are rebelling against Him because He's the son of God whom the Father sent to die on the cross that you may be forgiven of your sins. And if you rebel against Him, you say, Well, I believe in God but I don't believe in this Jesus. Well, then you don't believe in the one true God because they are the same. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, three persons that make up the trinity. And Jesus came in order that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and have the gift of eternal life. God has provided the very best for His children if we would be willing to accept it.
The laws of God are not suggestions. And the wonderful laws of God about his grace and love and mercy and protection and watch care and provision. They're not suggestions that God gives. These are the laws of God, the promises of God, the promises of God for good and the promises of God that concern evil. They're the laws of God. There are consequences to rebellion against God. And, somebody says, well, we don't even believe there is a God. I'm telling you. It doesn't make any difference whether you believe it or not. Rebellion against God brings consequences that are inevitable and inescapable in the life of individuals as well as the life of a nation. God loves us. But, listen, He loves us in a way that He knows what's best for us. When I choose something that is not best for me, I can expect God and His hand to come down.
What about your life? He's got the best plan, but are you willing to accept it? And when I think about, how do you correct this? It's real simple. Number one, you get in the Word of God. When God tells you to do something, the first thing you ought to do is start reading the Word of God and saying, Lord, give me some word that you have. And I'll mention something that I've mentioned before, naturally. And that is, the reason these verses became so precious to me, in Joshua is because my mother walked in my bedroom one afternoon before I was going to preach my first sermon. And she says, I want to give you this verse.
Now listen carefully, Mom and Dad. So she read me this verse: "Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous, do not tremble or be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go"? I memorized that verse before I got to the church. My mother was not an educated woman. She didn't know a whole lot about the Bible. But here's what she did. She planted in my mind as a seventeen-year-old, a verse of scripture that from that day to this has been the key verse of scripture in my life.
Now I want to ask all of you parents a question. What have you planted in the mind and heart of your children, of that little child, that will go with them throughout their entire lifetime? That will protect them, guide them, encourage them, enable them, challenge them, but lead them in a godly fashion? What have you planted in their minds? You could not plant in their mind a more powerful word than be strong and of a good courage. Fear not. Don't be dismayed. Don't be discouraged. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Don't depart from this book, the Word of God. Meditate on it day and night. Then He'll make your way successful. You will be able to achieve and you'll be able to do what God wants you to do.
You cannot plant in their hearts a greater passage of scripture than Joshua, chapter one. Israel lost it because of their rebellion against God. Joshua, Caleb, they went to the Promised Land. And I wonder as you look at your life today are you living a life of rebellion because you want it your way? Or are you wise enough to submit yourself to Almighty God and to His son, Jesus Christ, and follow Him and watch Him work in your life the awesome ways He works. There are three simple things. Meditate upon the word of God. Remember the awesome things that God has done for you. And keep your focus on Him. That'll take you through, no matter what you're facing in life.
Now, you may not be a Christian, and you may be floundering in your life wondering what in the world's going on. I'll tell you how to stop all that floundering. You ask God to forgive you for your rebellion against Him. You ask Him to forgive you of your sins based on what Jesus Christ did at the cross by dying and paying your sin debt in full. And you surrender your life to Him and tell Him that you don't want any more of this wilderness living. You want to get into Canaan. That is, the Canaan that He has for you in this life here and now. You want to follow Him. Everything will change. Your alternative? Stay in the wilderness and watch what happens.
Father, how grateful we are that you are a very patient God who loves us unconditionally. Thank you for your patience with all of us. We pray this morning in the name of Jesus that every person who hears this message will face up to reality. There are only two ways to live: out of the will of God or in the will of God. There's only one way to get in to will of God, that's through his son, Jesus. And there's only one way to live in the will of God and through the will of God is by the power of Holy Spirit who indwells every single believer. We love you, Father. Thank you for this dramatic illustration in your Word. Keep it upon our lips and in our heart because we want your best. You provided it and we thank you for it. In Jesus name, amen.